Random things

Back from the drinking sessionconference, with many good thoughts.

One in particular is due to the talk by Aiden Lyons at ANU on probability and evolution - after more than two decades trying to figure it out, I had to wait for a grad student to put it all neatly into perspective. His argument that there are at least three if not four senses or interpretations of probability and chance in evolution that - apart from anything else - prevents fitness being tautological, raises many more questions, but that is the nature of good papers.

Another, in no particular succession, is whether we need to start a discipline of Unapologetics to counter really bad theological justifications of religion.

I am also led by several papers, one by Peter Godfrey-Smith and another by Paul Griffiths and his collaborators Ed Machery and Stefan Linquist, both on the nature of innateness as a concept, and Paul's paper also on a concept - of homology - to wonder if there may be the beginnings of a historical critical methodology for constructing the likely speciality-specific deviations of terms like this from "folk belief", via the use of X-phi (experimental philosophy), developed initially by Stephen Stich. If we know pretty much what the naive folk concept is, then we have a good reason to think we can work out what semantic variables have been changed in the refiguring of a concept in a given discipline. Of course, there are complications - common sense is common only in the sense that it is what the wider culture receives from experts. So the current received meaning may already have been modified by the sciences (as in the concept of "species"). Food for thought.

More as it occurs to me.

More like this

Courtesy of Brian Leiter's blog comes a link to an article by Kwame Anthony Appiah in the New York Times about X-phi, or as it's better known, Experimental Philosophy. This is an approach to thought experiments that tries to find out what people actually think before launching into the sorts of…
Following on from my previous post "Are species theoretical objects", I want now to discuss what the status of species as phenomenal objects is. Some recent papers by Ingo Brigandt and Paul Griffiths (see refs), a view has been developed for some core concepts of biology - gene and homology - in…
No, it's not an oxymoron: philosophers have discovered the virtue of experimentation. Now a restive contingent of our tribe is convinced that it can shed light on traditional philosophical problems by going out and gathering information about what people actually think and say about our thought…
If you go here you will find downloadable podcasts of this conference: Second Queensland Biohumanities Conference, Philosophy of Ecology, held 29-30th June, 2006: Introduction by Prof. Paul Griffiths, and Mathematical Models in Ecology and Conservation Biology: Mark Colyvan The Agony of Community…

Do you have any material on the concept of "unaplogetics?" And I want to thank you for the paper by Griffiths, Machery and Lindquist. PZ is going to give a talk here in Minnesota on the neural basis of religious belief, which some have recently been saying is "innate." I look forward to seeing how the talk and the paper fit together.

um, this is a Sokal-like parody, right? (I mean, except for the "I'm back" part.)

I was thinking of collating those jibes which arouse theocons to gibbering rage and calling it Apoplectics...

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 04 Jul 2007 #permalink

John - are you going to post more on Lyons' work? I'm interested in this, being an evolutionary biologist and a statistician and all that.


The issue here is that Aiden's work is still in progress. He's giving a version at the ISHPSSB conference in a couple of weeks. But it would be problematic to post his arguments in detail before he does.